Laura Bush is on a Myanmar awareness-raising crusade. She seems to be casting it as a woman's issue, which is an odd way to frame the decades-long oppression of 52 million people by a military regime. I'm skeptical of this sort of thing in general, but the extent of Bush's ignorance on an issue she claims to champion is kind of disturbing:
Although Myanmar’s government has withstood criticism and a decade of sanctions, Mrs. Bush argued against resignation on the issue.
“So ‘why bother,’ I guess, is the question people ask,” she said. “But I think the answer is, ‘Why not?’ I mean, why not continue to put pressure on the regime in any way we can?”
Well, I can think of lots of reasons "why not" to apply pressure for the mere sake of applying pressure, the first one being the interlocutor's: because it's not working. This we know. And it's possible that U.S. pressure is pushing the regime in the wrong direction, though in practice it's impossible to separate the regime's propaganda from its actual beliefs. Than Shwe uses the threat of U.S. invasion to justify military rule. U.N. intervention has thus far produced only a sham constitutional convention, which appropriates the language of democratic reform to continue justifying the regime's authority.
Bush also seems to think Burmese people sit around all day wishing Americans would pay more attention to them. Americans are in fact not paying attention. The Burmese, in my experience, are not at all aware of this. The massive American embassy in Yangon issues a condemnation every time the regime sneezes, and the regime responds by publishing anti-American screeds and pictures of bloody Iraqi children in the New Light of Myanmar. The Burmese read the New Light of Myanmar, which disapprovingly quotes the Americans, and get the impression that D.C. and Yangon are in constant, pissy dialogue.
Look, the junta has transformed Myanmar into one of the most isolated and reviled nations on Earth. Laura Bush's plan amounts to: "Hey I know! We'll isolate you! Big up to Suu Kyi!" Here's an interview with Time:
The Burmese I've met, they want our affection.
Are they puppies? The Burmese I've met want to not live under a thuggish dictatorship, and seem pretty unconcerned with the amount of TLC they are receiving from Americans.